Will people who dedicate their lives to helping the impoverished go to heaven?
Not necessarily. Giving and sacrificing for others is an outcome of salvation; but does not save them. All have sinned and need to repent and be forgiven though the power of Jesus Christ.
Am I required to give to every needy person I see?
No. As with every area of life, we must be led by the Spirit of God. While we must do charitable deeds, we are to be good stewards of what God has entrusted in our care. If we gave to every needy person, we would never have enough. Deeds of charity start with people who are of the household of faith. It is a poor testimony when people give money to strangers and the person sitting by them in worship service is going hungry.
In addition, different people have different calls in life which may focus their charitable acts. One person may have a special burden to minister to the needs of orphans. Someone else may have a special burden for the homeless people on the street. Another may have a special burden for the hungry people in other countries. All of these needs are important. There are enough needs for each to give as God leads and directs them. Remember though, God IS directing us to good works.
Does charitable giving encourage destructive behaviors or laziness in the recipient?
This is a far-reaching question and space does not permit a full response. Charitable giving is commanded by the scripture and should never be minimized by justifying it as irresponsible. It is not good stewardship to give the drunkard money with which to buy alcohol. But, if the drunkard’s children are going hungry because of the sin of the father, it would be commendable to feed those innocent children. The scripture was not promoting a welfare state but a condition where loving people would assist the hungry, naked, and poor.
If a man is lazy and sits at home unwilling to work, giving him food or money might encourage his laziness. On the other hand, if a man cannot find work and is doing his best, he is worthy of assistance.
Do we enable our children when we feed them? Orphans do not have a father or mother to feed them, so the scripture says to minister to their needs.
The tenor of the teaching of Christ was to help people in need, not people who necessarily “deserved” it or who could pay it back. “I was in prison, and you did not visit me.” Jesus did not say the visit was just for the one who was unjustly incarcerated.
Are the poor exempt from charitable giving?
No. While the rich may have more ability to give, the Bible teaches all of us to give and sacrifice for the needs of others. Giving is not only in money but in time. If a poor person cannot feed the hungry, he may be able to help the poor man plow the field, build a house, or share a blanket. There is always someone who has greater needs than we ourselves.